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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 199, October 2020   
The Sense of TastingThe Sense of Tasting  Contents 
Issue 198, September 2020 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on Twitter 

The Sense of Tasting


 After many years of being into wine – more than twenty now – there is still a topic that makes me think every time someone asks me for an opinion about it. It often makes me think that around this topic – sensorial and analytical tasting – there is a confusion sometimes even embarrassing. I realize for some wine lovers, so to speak, more or less “experienced”, witnessing the sensorial tasting exercise carried out by a taster is an experience bordering on witchcraft, fascinated by the number of descriptors listed during the analysis of what the taster has in the glass. The taster, or presumed one, is often seen and considered as a special person, gifted with who knows what supernatural powers, capable of telling any “secret” of any wine and, apparently, with comfortably ease and without any effort. For many, moreover, it borders on the transcendent to see someone who, even with haughty self-confidence, claims to perceive from the glass enchanting scents ranging from peach to myrrh, as if he or she were celebrating a rite reserved or granted to “a select few”.


 

 The thing that makes me think more, in any case, is the perplexity shown by some about the usefulness of sensorial and analytical tasting, that is – to simplify things – what is the real use of concentrating so much on the qualitative perception of aromas or taste sensations of a wine. Every time, however, I come to the same conclusion: for everyone the usefulness of sensorial tasting – besides allowing you to give a good impression to your friends – is to be able to easily tell a list of mind-blowing and indisputable descriptors. No one, however, think about what for me is by far the most useful and, I believe, difficult aspect: the analysis of faults, that is the most critical and fundamental aspect to define the quality of a wine. Furthermore, many are convinced that in order to become a “good taster” it is very important to taste very expensive wines, assuming, therefore, they are also very good as well as impeccable in any regard.

 In my opinion, however, I believe that to become a good taster it is much more important – I would add, fundamental – to taste bad wines, those having faults, especially when they are found in a slight and subtle way. Let's be clear, tasting wines of the highest quality is equally important and fundamental as they allow us to form an education to the objective reference of enological quality. It must also be added a good taster cannot allow his or her own personal taste – which evidently has – to prevail over the objective criteria of quality and therefore penalizing wines which do not meet his or her taste, even though they are good in qualitative terms. If it is true we recognize a good wine because we know what a good wine is, it is equally true – and maybe even more true – we recognize a bad wine because we know what a bad wine is. In particular, we know the enological criteria defining a wine technically, organoleptically and qualitatively, both the positive values and faults of a wine and how and why they develop and are detected.

 Experience, just like any other activity or art, is fundamental and, in this sense, there are no shortcuts or tricks of the trade, as the only way to acquire it is to continuously exercise the senses, tasting as much as possible all the time. Moreover, and no less important, there is the memory. Because tasting a wine also means making use of the sensations it produces – visual, olfactory and gustatory – and then remembering them and making good use of them, when applicable, at each tasting. As already said, a good wine is recognized as such because we know what is a good wine. To do this, in fact, the continuous practical, theoretical and conscious exercise of tasting and memory is fundamental. Perhaps, as some have already said, talent is also needed. Moreover, as I consider sensorial tasting – and not just of wine – an art capable of stimulating the senses and arousing emotions, talent certainly plays a decisive role. However, everyone has senses, saved the case they suffer from specific pathologies limiting or preventing their use, therefore it is also a matter of training and practice. As athletes know very well, the more you train yourself, the more likely you can get better results.

 Sensorial tasting of a wine is very important, it certainly is for me that I consider it not only a precious personal and professional exercise, but also a useful tool for telling the story of a wine. A very different description from the emotional account, therefore subjective and which, in my opinion, is of little use to the effective understanding of a wine for what it really is. A matter of points of view, of course, as for some the analytical and sensorial narration of a wine is boring and useless, just as it is for me the emotional account of others. I can rejoice and be pleased with what someone has experienced while tasting a wine, but it doesn't tell me anything concrete about how that wine is made and what I find in the glass. The usefulness and meaning of sensorial tasting, however, go far beyond the narration of a wine. When done properly – and with adequate experience, concentration and method – it is possible to determine many characteristics of a wine, including the grapes with which it was produced, territory, wine making techniques, the course of the season and the factors of ripeness, just to mention the main ones.

 The presence of a group of aromas, in fact, allows the identification of a wine not only according to the grapes used for its production, but also to the territory and the composition of the soil. In any case, tasting is not just the olfactory analysis of a wine and the ability to know how to recognize its aromas. Important information, in fact, is also obtained from appearance and taste, including, of course, the final sensations, that is when the wine has been swallowed. Color, in particular, offers an incredible amount of information, not only on the grape and its coloring property, but also on the weather of the year and the type of soil where the vineyard is grown. Likewise, the evaluation of the taste of wine allows, moreover, the determination of the grape used for the production and the degree of ripeness. Sensorial and analytical tasting of a wine is certainly not an exercise to show off or amaze others, indeed it is a precious tool for the effective understanding of a wine. Last but not least, for the understanding of a territory and its grapes, the people who made that wine – from vineyard to bottle – of their skill, agronomic and enological competence, as well as their style of interpretation of territories and grapes.

 Sensorial and analytical tasting therefore makes an enormous and fundamental sense, it is an indispensable tool of inestimable value for anyone who wants to seriously listen to wine and truly understand it for what it is. It takes an enormous initial effort – just like any other thing you try to learn – but the rewards it gives over time are priceless, both personally and professionally. Tasting is the profound meaning of wine, the means that connects our senses to those of wine and which gives a meaning to everything, for better or for worse, for good and for bad. Finally, sensorial tasting is also an act of profound respect for wine and for those who made it, because it requires concentration and attention, just like when you talk to someone and really listen to them. Listening and feeling are always the highest form of respect, politeness and consideration towards others, the willingness to intimately understand and in depth. And this is true with people as it is with wine.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 199, October 2020   
The Sense of TastingThe Sense of Tasting  Contents 
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